The Pittsburgh Morning Sun
Thursday, April 10, 2003
The Headline reads
Iraqis topple statue,
as U.S. troops take over capital.
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Their hour of freedom at hand, jubilant Iraqis celebrated the collapse of Saddam Hussein's murderous regime on Wednesday, beheading a toppled statue of their longtime ruler in downtown Baghdad and embracing American troops as liberators.
A young Iraqi spat on a portrait of Saddam. Men hugged Americans in full combat gear, and women held up babies so soldiers riding on tanks could kiss them.
"Bush, Bush, thank you," chanted small bands of youth in Saddam City, a predominantly Shiite area of eastern Baghdad.
Wait a minute!
We’ve read that somewhere before…
in the Bible… in Mark 11:1-10
The Headline reads:
The Triumphal Entry
1As they approached Jerusalem
and came to Bethphage and Bethany
at the Mount of Olives,
Jesus sent two of his disciples,
2saying to them,
"Go to the village ahead of you,
and just as you enter it,
you will find a colt tied there,
which no one has ever ridden.
Untie it and bring it here.
3If anyone asks you,
'Why are you doing this?'
tell him, 'The Lord needs it
and will send it back here shortly.' "
4They went and found a colt
outside in the street, tied at a doorway.
As they untied it,
5some people standing there asked,
"What are you doing, untying that colt?"
6They answered as Jesus had told them to,
and the people let them go.
7When they brought the colt to Jesus
and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it.
8Many people spread their cloaks on the road,
while others spread branches
they had cut in the fields.
9Those who went ahead
and those who followed shouted,
"Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" 10"Blessed is the coming kingdom
of our father David!"
"Hosanna in the highest!"
We’re one week from Easter!
Today is “Palm Sunday.”
This is the day of Jesus triumphal entry into Jerusalem
only days before things turn ugly…
and he’s put on trial and crucified.
What a coincidence…
This is the day when the Coalition Troops
entered into Baghdad
and declared victory over Saddam’s regime.
Now, only days later there is widespread looting
The Gospel of Mark often draws our attention
to the repeated blindness of the disciples,
their persistent deafness…
their out-and-out inability
to recognize who Jesus really is…
and what he has come to the world to do!
The people wanted to make him a king.
Two of them actually wanted
the seat of power and authority
right next to Jesus
in his new regime.
They didn’t understand…
Incidentally, we are also wondering,
“who will be in charge in Iraq
when the dust settles.”
When Jesus fed the five thousand,
they didn’t understand.
They thought Jesus was jocking
for the Prime Minister’s job.
When he calmed the storm,
they didn’t recognize him.
When he asked them straight out
“Who do you say that I am?”
they had all the right answers
and said all the right words…
but they had a totally different understanding
of what Jesus would be!
They wanted war and weapons.
They expected power and prestige.
Here is Jesus in the Gospel of Mark
revealing himself and God’s plan for the world …and over and over again
the disciples and the crowds
fail to understand.
Jesus proceeds to tell his disciples that “yes,”
he is the Messiah…
but what that means is that
he’s headed to Jerusalem
to suffer and die
and “give his life as a ransom for many.”
Jesus had healed the sick.
He had made the blind to see again.
He had fed the hungry multitudes.
He had touched lepers
and cast out demons.
Isn’t that what the Messiah was to be about?
Healing and restoration and deliverance?
He was a Messiah
who was popular with the crowd.
And now the disciples and the crowds
were looking for a warrior…
somebody to lead them in
“Operation Jerusalem Freedom”
against the hated Roman occupation.
In today’s Gospel reading Jesus fulfills
the words of the prophet Zechariah.
Zechariah had said many years before:
“Rejoice, O daughter of Zion! Shout!
Your king comes to you
triumphant and victorious is he,
humble and riding on a colt,
the foal of a donkey.”
Here comes the Liberator!
People are shouting… dancing…
spreading their coats on the road…
waving Palm Leaves.
chanting in the streets
“Victory is ours”
“Hail to the King.”
It was a dramatic entry into Jerusalem.
The message was clear…
“Here comes the Victor!”
“Here comes the King”.
Jesus showed the crowd that followed him
why he had come to the world!
But, there is something odd about this story
We have trouble with the picture…
Specifically we have trouble with the donkeys
have an image problem in our culture.
They’re thought to be dumb animals.
None of the great Western heroes ever rode a donkey.
John Wayne wouldn’t be caught dead
on a donkey.
The Lone Ranger… Zorro…
they wouldn’t ride on a donkey
if their life depended on it.
For us, a donkey is a dumb and stubborn animal.
Only a hillbilly would ride a donkey…
But in the first century,
donkeys were vital, useful…
even noble animals.
Palestine is a rocky place.
There are hills and valleys and narrow passes.
There are winding … treacherous … rocky paths.
The beast of choice in that environment
is not a horse but rather a donkey.
In first century Palestine donkeys were useful animals
and they were also a symbol of peace.
If you wanted to go to war, you rode a horse.
If you wanted to fight a battle,
you jumped on a stallion.
If you want to fight a battle,
You bring in the B52 Bombers,
and you get into an A44 Tank…
But when you wanted to convey peace,
you chose the colt of a donkey or a mule…
If you come in good faith…
you ride a one-speed bike…
and you hold out an olive branch…
Do you see what Jesus is doing?
He has set his face to go to Jerusalem!
He’s coming as the Messiah…
the promised Liberator from God…
but he’s coming humbly… meekly… and in peace!
Only days later it became clear
that Jesus had not met their expectations.
The Jews wanted their enemies destroyed.
They thought that Jesus
was the man for the job.
They wanted their oppressors overthrown.
They wanted the Romans
to be expelled from Jerusalem.
They wanted the statues of Caesar toppled…
They wanted death and destruction to their foes.
And the Messiah… He would give it to them!
They shouted “Hosanna”
which means “Save us!”
They said: “Hosanna”
take your sword and free us from Rome!
crush our enemies!
raise your flag as our Liberator!
Did Jesus come to save them?
Yes! Most definitely!
Would he do it by spilling
the blood of the Romans in war?
No! That is not God’s way!
Our deliverance… our salvation… our freedom
would not come
from the spilling of Roman blood…
but through the spilling
of the Messiah’s blood!
The story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem
is a story that is so often misunderstood.
How often have we joined the cry of the crowd
and asked Jesus to destroy our enemies?
…as we do even now…
…we all want Saddam dead or alive…
at least we did until we saw all the disorder
that is now rampant in Iraq.
We demand salvation from our pain …
from our problems …
from our circumstances.
We want our oppressors overthrown!
We want our situations made right!
Hosanna “Save us,” … we cry.
And there’s Jesus
continuing his journey toward Jerusalem
without saying a word…
on an animal of peace…
to face the cross of suffering.
Jesus did not come to liberate us
from all suffering and pain and sacrifice.
Jesus came to deliver us from the “death blow”
of sin, hell, and the grave!
In the midst of our suffering,
our pain and insufficiency,
Jesus provides grace…
and strength and victory!
There is power in non-violence!
Jesus came to fight a battle alright...
he came to wage a war.
But it wasn’t a fight against the Romans.
It was a battle against the principalities
and the sin of the world…
and his weapon
was the Cross of love and sacrifice!
Jesus… on the Cross… settled the outcome!
He won the battle!
Jesus is the Victor!
“The hour of freedom” has come.
The Prince of Peace
is riding into town.
May God grant us open eyes to see
that our King is entering into his own.
His Kingdom is not of this world…
The Apostel Paul says,
the message of the cross is foolishness
to those who are perishing,
but to us who are being saved
it is the power of God. (1 Cor. 1:18)
We proclaim the crucified Christ,
who came riding on a donkey,
meek and humble…
to bring in the Kingdom of God.
May we join in on the triumphal procession…
Let us pray